Local News

Bridge fishing to continue, at least for the present

Fishing Stedman BridgeThe Ketchikan City Council on Thursday didn’t take any firm action to restrict fishing from the Stedman Street Bridge, but Council members asked city management to bring back some ideas to address concerns.

Pretty much everyone who spoke during the Council meeting agreed that fishing should be allowed, in one way or another. There was some dissent about where, with some advocating the bridge and others suggesting that a new space be built, off the main pedestrian area.

But don’t take away people’s ability to fish. A number of people came to the lectern, speaking in favor of one of Alaska’s most revered activities.

But then there are the problems. While not advocating a ban on fishing – in fact, he said repeatedly that he absolutely doesn’t – Southeast Sea Kayaks owner Greg Thomas said his business takes tourists under the bridge, and those visitors are subjected to harassment on a regular basis.

“We’ve been bombarded with fishing sinkers, hooks, coins,” he said. “We call the police numerously. In fact, we called the police today. It’s just disgraceful.”

The kayak harassment was one of several problems brought up in an email that Ken Arriola sent to Council members, and his email prompted the discussion.

He also wrote that the sidewalk is congested because the fishermen are sharing it with thousands of tourists. Arriola also expressed concern about public safety, citing the potential for flying fish hooks to snag a passing tourist; and about the mess left behind when fishermen clean their catch on the sidewalk.

During Council discussion of the issue, Council Member DeAnn Karlson said she shares some of the concerns that have been raised. She said she’s been down in that area when the hooks were flying, and it’s a miracle that nobody has been seriously injured.

“I’ve also been down there before where I had to weave my way through the blood and guts,” she said. “It’s not endearing for our community.”

Mayor Lew Williams III suggested to City Manager Karl Amylon that the city start enforcing some of its own rules.

“Is there something under disorderly conduct, where we can put some bite into it?” he said.

Amylon answered that it’s possible, and asked whether the Council also wanted to cite people for littering if they clean fish on the sidewalk. Williams said yes, especially if there’s a sign telling them where the existing fish-cleaning station is located.

Council Member Marty West suggested better signage directing people to the cleaning station.

At the end of the discussion, the Council directed city management to talk to the state – which owns the bridge. And to talk with Stephen Reeve of Historic Ketchikan. Reeve also spoke during public comment, and offered his services to the city. Reeve said he’s already looked into some options, including floats that could be built and provided to the fishermen as an alternative.

However, Council Member Dick Coose was a little concerned about that proposal.

“If we do that, we need to think about who takes the liability,” he said. “If we build something, we might be on the hook.”

The Ketchikan City Council also had a long discussion about whether to start the annexation process for property off the Third Avenue Bypass that belongs to Paul and Theresa Hamilton.

The Hamiltons want to develop the property, and the borough has tentatively approved a preliminary play to subdivide. But, the plan first needs to be reviewed by the City of Ketchikan, because the property needs utilities and emergency service.

But, the property isn’t in city limits. The city code doesn’t allow water or wastewater service outside of city limits, and the city won’t provide fire protection or EMS outside of city limits, either.

City officials also are concerned about the condition of the primary access road to the sites.

The Hamiltons hired engineering contractor George Lybrand to help them get started developing the property. He argued that the city can provide those services, but if they won’t, just tell him so and he’ll take that information back to the borough. All he needs, he said, is a statement that “you’re not going to provide the utilities, your clear position on the maintaining the existing access that’s been in there a number of years, and clear statement that I asked for fire service and you’re not interested.”

The condition of the access road is one of the biggest problems. Public Works Director Clif Allen told the Council that it probably would cost at least seven figures to get that road up to minimum standards.

“Let’s just say it’s incredibly steep and I’ll say dangerous,” he said. “Lacking a geotechnical report, we don’t know that it’s stable enough for sustained heavy traffic. Be it truck traffic, fire truck traffic; it’s very questionable. It’s often referred to as logging roads, goat trails, they have a lot of nicknames, but it’s far short of a public roadway.”

Allen said that improving the access road would be the Hamiltons’ responsibility.

The motion to move forward with annexation passed following a 3-3 tie vote, broken by Mayor Williams. Council Members Dick Coose, Judy Zenge and KJ Harris voted no.

Council Member Matt Olsen was absent.

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